Tag Archives: Dysfunctional

Everything is Alright

16 Aug

Film: Little Miss Sunshine

Director: Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton

Year Released: 2006

Cast: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin

Available on Netflix Streaming: No

Available on Cuevana: Yes

Rating: 9.3/10

She’s Kickin’ Ass!

Say Hello to the Hoovers! They are unhappy.

That line remains the culmination of emotion, frustration, elation and eventually acceptance in the film, Little Miss Sunshine. It does not seem like a particularly important line; in fact, at first appearance, it merely serves as comic relief from character Richard Hoover, played by Greg Kinnear. However, taken in relation and context with respect to the entire film, one can truly begin to appreciate the magnitude of this simple statement. Quite appropriately the entire beauty pageant at the end of the film serves as a sort of mechanism  to take all the problems of each character and place them in context with respect to the entire film.

Husband and wife director duo Valerie Faris and Johnathan Dayton bring to life Micheal Arndt’s cleverly written screenplay, for which he won an Academy Award. Arndt has woven such familial intricacy into the script, which ranges from the good moments to the equally occurring painful and devastating moments, that we feel a deep connection with the characters. The film begins with a wonderfully made opening sequence, which introduces us to the family members and all their respective characteristics and idiosyncrasies. Already at the beginning of the film, it is easy to tell that not all is well with this family.

Little Miss Sunshine recounts the journey of a dysfunctional family as they attempt to get their young, innocent daughter, Olive, to a children’s beauty pageant in California. Throughout this journey, all the characters face obstacles and personal dilemmas that threaten to disintegrate the family even further. It is only through time spent together that the family begins to realize that they can only stay connected as a family if they learn to accept each other for who they are and not who they want each other to be. This is especially the case for Greg Kinnear’s character, Richard Hoover.

Throughout all the mayhem, it is clear that Arndt has painted an accurate picture of modern America and the contemporary issues that people contend with on a daily basis. Notions of obesity, suicide, the definition of success, drugs and of course dysfunction pop up in various scenes and though these motifs never take the center stage, they create an astonishingly desperate background in which all these characters operate. Moreover, all these motifs connect to the central theme of the film of learning to realize that despite all the hardships and the struggles and the judgments, everything will be alright.

In order to convey this message, Arndt relied upon dark and witty serio-humor while directors duo Faris and Dayton contrasted the dark problems of the family with the bright, yellow van they drive as well as the bright, visual motifs of the film. Sunshine is beaming in nearly every shot. Even when the family faces drawbacks, they maintain their resolve to get Olive to this beauty pageant. Why is there such an effort by all characters to make this happen? Perhaps because they feel that this pageant, this one last chance for something good, is the only thing that can bring their family back together. In any case, the realism portrayed by each character bolsters the theme exceptionally.

Life is referred to as one, big beauty pageant by one of the characters and this seems central to the theme as well. The disparity between Olive’s physique and the attitudes of the far more serious and disturbingly sexed-up little girl contestants mirrors this concept. People will tell us who to be, people will tell us how to act and people will judge us if we do not conform to these standards; they will call us losers. But this film teaches us to acknowledge that there is no silly pair-wise classification of winners and losers. We are who we are (yeah Ke$ha) and we should fully embrace that image in order to truly be happy.

The doll-like appearance of the contestants is quite scary.

Like I stated in the film intro post, the score was produced by Mychael Danna and Devotchka. It contains some very touching music in addition to some very inspirational tracks. The opening sequence that I referenced earlier would not have made such an impression without the The Winner Is playing in the background. Again, the power of music in film is unmistakable. The soundtrack does comprise many tracks that do sound like reworkings of their famous song How it Ends but the different instrumental work in each piece defines a different dimension of the plot. And it creates a wonderful gamut of sounds and emotions in the soundtrack.

In addition, the soundtrack features Sufjan Stevens and the wonderful Rick James and his incredible classic Superfreak. All I can say is that this film utilizes the song superbly and if you do not crack even a smile during that scene, well you must not have a heart I’d say. As one of the purer moments of comedy and the film’s climax, this scene brings the film back to its narrative core. A story about family.

Indeed, Little Miss Sunshine demonstrates that life is rarely ever easy and that overcoming life’s hurdles is not any easier. But how could we ever truly enjoy the good without knowing the bad? As long as you stay true to yourself and you have people who love you for who you are, you can tell yourself that everything is alright.

Rating: 9.3/10


Some of the great music from the movie:

I love how they use this track. It’s perfectly done.

and of course: